Dear Main Street Community,

It’s 2022! Life happens fast. 2021 was certainly a year of ups and downs, triumphs and challenges. And while Covid seems to ebb and flow, people continue to feel disconnected, stressed, more fragile, more fearful, more isolated…and perhaps more fatigued and less rooted.

Nadia Bolz-Weber shares these same sentiments in her article ”If You Can’t Take It Anymore, There’s a Reason”. To simplify, Nadia uses the analogy of a circuit breaker. Our psyches were not created to handle all that is thrown at us these days. At every step, we have loads of information hitting us – tragedies occurring all over the world, divisive political discourse, increasing rates of depression and anxiety – the list goes on and on. Our mental fuse boxes are overloaded.

As we turn the page to a new year, with Covid still omnipresent in our lives, how can we manage this overload? How do we find an anchor in these tumultuous times?

As I have stated in my previous founder’s letters, we have many options and choices to find calm and improve mental and physical wellness and connection. Many people are utilizing mindful practices, movement and journaling to help them through. Others find that listening to podcasts, cooking new recipes and learning new things stimulates new brain pathways leading to a feeling of purpose. Many friends seem to be organizing their homes and spaces, which can be soothing and cathartic. Caring for others in need is also a wonderful and therapeutic response. Helping others is not just altruistic but also an opportunity to expand our own hearts and minds. And, of course, connecting physically and virtually brings joy and nourishment and is a game changer for many.

As I sat over the holidays and reflected on the new year, I thought about my very own 2021, my 52nd year of life. My nature is one of internal reflection and 2021 was no different. I am proud of my work in 2021. Some of it was deep – emotionally detaching, being less defensive and regulating my emotions. Some of my work was more superficial – getting off sleep aids, taking care of my skin and cleaning out my gut. I spent time on each of these goals, was disciplined and, while these are ongoing processes, I feel proud of my efforts. So, I really contemplated 2022, thinking of attainable goals, all in the framework of self-care and compassion to not overburden my circuits. After much contemplation, I realized I could and should learn from others who inspired me in 2021 and create a 2022 where I feel useful, mentally stimulated, open hearted (stay tuned for my February founder letter for more on my open-hearted process) and anchored.

First, I plan to broaden my thinking. I was with two friends who shared their passion for crossword puzzles. They get so much satisfaction by using their brain to think differently. Our brains are wired to think and feel a certain way. Obviously, life events and experiences alter these connections and patterns, but it is safe to say we are all hardwired. Expanding the way we think has many present and future benefits and, at this moment, feels like a challenge I can handle and will enjoy. So, I plan to do the New York Times crossword puzzle a few times per week hoping to expand my thinking.

Second, I plan to develop my creativity and curiosity. I want to spend some time tapping into my curious and creative mind in ways I haven’t in some time. One day while on vacation, my youngest son, Ethan, asked me if he could use my room so he could have some privacy. He explained that he needed a private space to write. Last summer, Ethan met with a friend of ours who is in the sports marketing field and revealed his lifelong dream of becoming a sports journalist. Our friend recommended that Ethan spend each morning reading and writing about sports. If this becomes a daily practice, not only would he become a better writer, but he would be one step closer to his future goal. Ethan took this advice to heart. At first it was hard but now he starts every day spending 20-30 minutes reading and writing. He often uses this practice at college as a brain warm-up prior to starting his homework.

I was/am completely inspired by my youngest son, all of 20 years old! (Isn’t it amazing when we are inspired by our kids?) Then one night while browsing Facebook, I came across a book that provides prompts to develop creativity. I decided that this could be a daily practice for me, much like Ethan’s. I am looking forward to getting my creative juices flowing!

Finally, I plan to cultivate my courage. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that 2021 left me inspired by the courage of so many people shown in so many different ways. I believe that witnessing courage in others allows us to find our own.

To begin, there is my husband, Scott, who seized an opportunity when he purchased Bethesda Magazine in 2020. A real estate developer by trade taking on a completely new profession as a publisher. Wow! That takes courage. I am now watching him learn the ropes with a new team in a new industry. It is filled with obstacles, but it is a great opportunity to learn and broaden his thinking.

My oldest son and my nephew completed IRONMAN triathlons. It was spectacular and inspiring to see the discipline and courage required to finish this race. I am still in awe!

And courage came in many other forms this year. My second son quit his job despite doubts and fears so he could grow and learn, my mom prepared for and recovered from several surgeries (she is a total badass), a friend published his very first book and a dear friend showed up for herself.

The pandemic has called attention to the many quiet acts of courage that those in our Main Street community show everyday – working at jobs to provide essential services, creatively building connections in a time of social distancing, taking risks to try new activities and steadfastly supporting others through physical, mental and emotional challenges. As Mary Anne Radmacher wrote, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” I am both proud and inspired by the subtle displays of courage I witness daily.

The most powerful form of courage I observed this year was from a local 24-year-old woman diagnosed with a terminal illness. I only met Rachel briefly, but I have known her incredible family for some time. From a distance, I observed this young woman live out her last year with dignity, strength, resilience and most of all, courage. Talk about a badass! Her courage seemed to actually permeate those around her, family and friends and the broader community, as she comforted them through this incredibly challenging time. There were many moments during her battle that would bring most of us to our knees, but not Rachel. She created Rachel’s Racers, rallied a community of supporters around her, shared her experience honestly and raised over $250,000 for brain cancer research.

When I think of my year(s) ahead and the challenges and uncertainty that will come my way, I am going to do my best channel Rachel. I will use her example of courage as a call to action, perhaps an anchor to ground me when I need to find my inner bravery.

2022 is here. I pray that it is a year of hope, of clarity and of light and an opportunity to reset our circuits. And if you need a nudge or some help, cultivate your curiosity, your creativity, expand your thinking and reflect on Rachel and those in your own life who stand tall and show “their brave” in loud and quiet ways – then maybe just maybe it will help you find our own.

With Love and Light,